I struggled to write this essay …
I know the full impact, the true impact, of this entire experience won’t hit me until these words are shared alongside my picture. My body, my story; they are my identity.
She … With wild curls backlit by the sun like
a copper halo, green eyes glinting, an amber necklace as her only adornment. Body humming from the inhaling the crisp air, the scent of dry autumn leaves and water on rock. Exhaling, to taste the nostalgia of fall in the mountains.
During the shoot with Erica, I hurdled boulders, leapt towards the sun, tipped into handstands, tumbled out of cartwheels, but ultimately stood naked with all that I am and all that I had to offer, laid bare.
She … Bare body, embodied. Honest, unearthed, and leaning into the unknown.
Her body poised like a question-mark; secure in her skin yet simultaneously stretching as much as she dared. Freedom held in the sunlight at the tips of her hair, the tug of the wind, within her whispered prayer.
I felt so certain, so at peace. And yet since then, I have written and erased and written and erased, a senseless, ceaseless cycle to try to get it right. All our lives we are told to do the right thing, look the right way, have the right body, speak the right words, go to the right school, get the right job, marry the right man or the right woman, raise our kids the right way…
For the last week, I have grappled with the want to write this essay the “right” way. Until now.
She …Struck by realization like a lightning bolt: she was wasting her time trying to define her
experiences as good or bad, right or wrong – it was all just life. Instead, she decided to remind herself that she was brave, strong, and creative enough to handle anything.
I am now sitting here, laughing, finally letting go of feeling obligated to write the “right” essay. We can only make it our truth, own what that truth is, and trust that it is enough. So I will write it my way, because it is my story, my body. There is a certain freedom that comes from the act of accepting: not chasing, not retreating — simply being, as a living being.
Rather ironically, the passage on Death from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, spoke to me the most in this process of living:
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from
its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when
you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to embody my body in this newfound way, and know that process may take days, months, years, my entire life, to learn and live and love. To embody is to make a choice, to breathe in the space in between; to soak up stillness with toe curling contentment, as well as wide spread arms
and fingers outstretched for the next moment, motion, movement.
She … Blessed is she, with a body that can dance.
Whenever I begin to feel self conscious or worry about the way others are viewing my body, I think back on my experience with the Embody Project and immediately begin to feel comfort and confidence. I’m reminded of the unbelievable amount of love that I have for myself and for my body. The Embody Project has had an extremely positive impact on my life and for that I’m forever grateful.
Participating in the Embody Project forced me to put to words the confusing relationships I’ve had with exercise, my body, and cultural expectations. Both the experience of writing the essay and seeing my photograph gave me the opportunity to explicitly define, for myself, my ideas about strength and femininity. Beyond that, it was incredibly fun to strip down with some dear friends and lift heavy weights! Erica was a complete joy to work with, and I felt supported, loved, and respected every step of the way. I am proud to be a part of the Embody Project.
As an already open person who has become fairly comfortable with nudity in my recent years, this project seemed ideal for me. There was some discomfort, but the whole experience was phenomenal. Erica is wonderful to work with, and she really allows freedom in the shoot, which makes it feel completely natural. I think the most difficult part was digging into my psyche for the essay, knowing that I’d already come out victorious for having shared in a sort of universally encompassing realm of vulnerability and expressing that everyone really is beautiful.
The Embody Project was a lens into the vulnerable me, the authentic, fierce and blossoming me. The one I have been reluctant to show, perhaps even see for myself. Working with Erica was a balm on my heart, a gesture, a huge bouquet of self-acceptance and care for the divinity and perfection in each of us. I offer deep gratitude for your work, your artistic eye, and loving presence where all is illuminated.
What stuck with me the most from my experience with the Embody Project didn’t have anything to do with me being naked and photographed. It had to do with my realization of how women are storied in our culture. As a male in our western society, I had never been invited to dance with the fear, judgement and objectification that women feel, like I was through my participation in this project.
My Embody Project experience was a way for me to recognize the support from the Universe that my story, expression and body is influential on international levels and is powerfully needed during these times on the planet! Truly, life enhancing and magical!